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The Crypto Rich List: Who Are Cryptocurrency’s Wealthiest Players?

Cryptocurrencies are often trumpeted as a means of “democratising the financial world,” insofar as no centralized bank or government directly controls their operation. However, there’s also little doubt that the cryptocurrency market and industry has resulted in enormous concentrations of wealth, with whales and exchange CEOs/founders now owning large quantities of bitcoin and other tokens (not to mention shares and cash).

Indeed, with the top 14,000 bitcoin addresses holding around 62% of all BTC in circulation, the accumulation of wealth facilitated by crypto also potentially facilitates the accumulation of power and influence (for better or for worse).

Brian Armstrong, CEO Coinbase

Welcome to the Thunderdome

That crypto has ironically resulted in the consolidation and centralization of wealth was underlined by a report from Bloomberg in 2022, which calculated that Binance founder Changpeng ‘CZ’ Zhao had a personal fortune of approximately $96 billion. That this estimation doesn’t even include Zhao’s own cryptocurrency holdings only serves to highlight the ridiculous sums of money the world’s lust for ‘the democratization of money’ has directed into the coffers of only a small handful of people.

Of course the crypto market gives and the crypto market takes. In roughly one year a dramatic amount of CZ’s wealth had been vaporized by a harsh crypto bear market and he’s now listed at $4.5 billion according to Forbes. Despite the setbacks, crypto still features a number of notable billionaires (although disgraced founders such as Sam Bankman-Fried are notably absent).

This article compiles these people into a crypto rich list. These numbers are all estimates taken from various reports. They also vary considerably since the price of crypto is so volatile.

That said, this is a list of the cryptocurrency industry’s wealthiest people, including a summary of how they came to accumulate so much wealth and their prospects for the future.

1. Changpeng ‘CZ’ Zhao: $4.5bn+

Bloomberg once valued Changpeng ‘CZ” Zhao’s net worth at an astounding $96 billion but the latest report from Forbes listed Zhao at a somewhat more ‘reasonable’ $4.5 billion.

Despite the shocking drop in valuation, CZ likely remains the richest person in the cryptocurrency industry. His wealth, according to Bloomberg, derives mostly from his 90% stake in Binance.

But given that Binance was founded in 2017 and that Zhao bought (an unspecified amount of) bitcoin in 2014 and also holds BNB, his entire worth is likely to be more than $96bn. Of course, we can only speculate, but at current prices he would need to hold around 27,000 BTC to add an extra $1 billion to his fortune.

As the major shareholder of Binance, Zhao looks well-placed to maintain his fortune for some time to come. On the downside Binance has attracted a considerable amount of unwanted attention from regulators (in various countries) in recent months, jeopardizing its position.

2. Brian Armstrong: $4.3bn+

No prizes for guessing that Brian Armstrong is the founder and CEO of Coinbase, meaning his wealth comes from his stake in the US-based exchange.

Forbes put his wealth at $4.3 billion in 2023, based on him owning around 19% of Coinbase. Coinbase is currently valued at roughly $23 billion.

Back in 2018, Brian Armstrong said he would give away the vast bulk of his personal fortune to charity, having signed the Giving Pledge started by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett in 2010. He also joins Changpeng Zhao in this respect, with the Binance founder pledging to give away 99% of his wealth to charity over time (although he hasn’t signed the Giving Pledge).

(Pictured above)

3. Cameron Winklevoss and Tyler Winklevoss: $1.1bn each

The twins Cameron and Tyler and Winklevoss own the Gemini exchange, which was valued at $7 billion. This gives them a worth of $3.5 billion each, although they also own a considerable quantity of bitcoin. Some estimates put this stash at 150,000 BTC, meaning that you could add $6.45 billion to the total figure, which would work out at nearly $5 billion each.

One thing that distinguishes the US-based Gemini exchange is that it has made significant efforts to be regulatory compliant from its beginnings. In other words, there’s less chance of Gemini being unduly affected by regulations than either FTX or Binance. Still, given that they own so much bitcoin, the Winklevoss wealth could decline considerably following a severe market downturn.

4. Chris Larsen: $2.2bn

Chris Larsen, the co-founder of Ripple, holds a reported 5.19 billion XRP. Given current prices, this now puts his wealth at about $2.2 billion, with this figure dropping significantly from the $6 billion Forbes listed back in early 2022.

Things are looking up for Larsen and Ripple, however, as the company won it’s long-standing battle with the SEC in the summer of 2023. Larsen’s net worth may increase significantly if XRP continues to rise in value.

5. Jed McCaleb: $2.1bn

Another Ripple co-founder, McCaleb currently holds an estimated 3.4 billion XRP, which is worth $2.1 billion under current prices. Again, this could fluctuate wildly depending on the outcome of the SEC’s case with Ripple, while McCaleb has been selling his stash of XRP over time.

6. Michael Saylor: $1.842bn

Michael Saylor, the CEO of MicroStrategy, has a 19% stake in the technology company, which also happens to own just over 158,400 bitcoins. This puts his wealth fronm the company around $1.1 billion, while Saylor also personally owns 17,732 BTC, adding $762 million to his wealth.

Obviously, Saylor’s wealth depends on the value of bitcoin, with MicroStrategy’s share price now varying according to the cryptocurrency market, despite it ostensibly being a software company.

7. Fred Ehrsam: $1.4bn

A co-founder of Coinbase, Fred Ehrsam still owns around 6% of Coinbase’s stock despite leaving the exchange in 2017. This works out at $1.3 billion given Coinbase’s current price, yet Ehrsam also co-founded the Paradigm One investment fund in 2018, which has raised $2.5 billion. This will likely increase his personal wealth over time.

8. Tim Draper: $1.29bn

Tim Draper is a noted Silicon Valley investor who happened to buy 30,000 BTC in 2014, in an auction of bitcoins seized by US Marshals as part of the Silk Road shutdown. This bitcoin is now worth $1.1 billion, and had been worth $2 billion when BTC reached an all-time high of $69,000 in November.

His firm — Draper Associates — has also invested in (among others) Tesla, which itself is heavily invested in cryptocurrency.

What About Sam Bankman-Fried?

Back in early 2022, Forbes estimated Bankman-Fried’s wealth at $22.5 billion, based on a funding round in which FTX raised $900m in July at a valuation of $18 billion. However, FTX raised another $400m later that year, which increased the evaluation to $25 billion.

At one point experts estimated Bankman-Fried’s net worth to approximately $30 billion, which would have made him second to CZ at the time.

Suffice to say he’s got a lot less these days.

In November of 2022, news broke that FTX was, in fact, insolvent and bankrupt. It turned out the company was loaning customer funds to sister trading firm Alameda, which lost the funds. Bankman-Fried was left holding the bag and, one year later, was convicted of seven counts of fraud and conspiracy and will likely spend decades in prison.

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CryptoVantage Author Simon Chandler

About the Author

Simon Chandler

Simon Chandler is a journalist based in London. He writes about technology, markets and politics, and has bylines for Forbes, Digital Trends, CCN, Wired, TechCrunch, the Verge, the Sun, the New Internationalist, and TruthOut, among many others. His Twitter handle is @_simonchandler_

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